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That things would not run smoothly as burnished silk was only to be expected. But that Congo, during the first six months of its existence, would have to deal with a serious military mutiny, the massive exodus of those Belgians who had remained behind, an invasion by the Belgian army, a military intervention by the United Nations, logistical support from the Soviet Union, an extremely heated stretch of the Cold War, an unparalleled constitutional crisis, two secessions that covered a third of its territory, and, to top it all off, the imprisonment, escape, arrest, torture, and murder of its prime minister: no, absolutely no one had seen that coming.
And it would take a long time for things to get better. The period between and is known today as the First Republic, but at the time it seemed more like the Last Judgment. The death toll among the Congolese population itself during this period was too high for meaningful estimates. Both politically and militarily, the country was plunged into total, inextricable chaos; at the economic level, the picture was clearer: things simply went from bad to worse.
Yet Congo had not fallen prey to wild irrationality. The president, the prime minister, the army, the rebels, the Belgians, the United Nations, the Russians, the Americans: each of them wielded a form of logic that seemed consistent and cogent within the confines of their own four walls, but which often proved irreconcilable with the outside world.
As in theater, tragedy in history here was not a matter of the reasonable versus the unreasonable, of good versus bad, but of people whose lives crossed and who—each and every one of them—considered themselves good and reasonable.
Idealists faced off with idealists, but when believed in fanatically all forms of idealism lead to blindness, the blindness of the good.